Thursday, October 18, 2012


Q&A With a Nutritionist, Part Two: The Reckoning

Previously: Part One of the interview with Sarah Starpoli.

You mentioned that it's useful to figure out which foods work best with your own body — how do people figure that out? Is it something that naturally takes years, or is it something that'll be testable in the coming decades? Like a scanner you pass through — "beep bop, Sarah Starpoli your body likes animal proteins, beep bop Jane Doe your body likes nuts" — or is the fun ("fun") in figuring it out naturally? I think I'm a nut person. Can I also be a wine person?

Oooh, I like the idea of a scanner! But, simply put, getting really in touch with how you actually feel every day is one of the best ways to figure out what foods are working for you. Do you get tired at the same time each day? Do you focus really well only sometimes? Do you have trouble sleeping? All of these things can often be tied to the food we eat and the time of day when we eat them.

I ended up actually having the luxury of getting to play around with different diets (as in ways of eating, not weight loss programs) for a year or so, but I don't necessarily think it means having to explore drastically different ways of eating to figure out what works for you (i.e. eating only raw food for a month, followed by a macrobiotic journey, followed by a weird too-many-rules paleo attempt ... sometimes eating shouldn't be such a chore, you know?). I honestly think that trying out some sort of food diary is the best way to figure out some basic things. It sounds TOTALLY ANNOYING, but can be so helpful. I'm sure there are apps and stuff for this too, but I'm a stationery addict who loves a physical notebook (I also say that my TV is "taping" things). 

Many people use food diaries to help with weight loss (you see how much you're eating, you freak out, so you eat less). That's all well and good, but I think it's useful to use it to figure out how different meals make you feel. How do you feel 10 minutes after eating an omelette for breakfast? How about an hour later? How soon are you hungry again? What time do you then eat lunch? Monitoring the time you eat, what you eat, and how you feel both immediately after and an hour later can really help! You're looking for food that makes you feel good for a long time! And then it's always helpful to make sure you have a Dear Diary moment at night to see how you feel at the end of your day. See if you notice any patterns so that you can manage them. Red velvet cupcakes make me feel awesome for a little while, but then tend to plummet me into a sea of Bitch about an hour later. Does that mean I won't eat them? Hell no! But I *do* think about it before taking the plunge, and if I decide to go for it, I avoid my boss until I snap out of it. Also, I'm a broccoli person and I'm a white wine person. I don't love fruit because it makes me feel nervous. I sometimes need to stay away from meat for a few days because it seems too heavy. Other times I need a burger to feel grounded.

This isn't really rocket science, but it's pretty empowering to feel like I understand how certain foods affect me and my every day. A friend of mine likes to say "I feel bad in my body" about any number of things, but I always think of that when I make the wrong food choices. It can be a little unnerving to be suddenly aware of the way every little thing makes you feel, but try not to freak out about it and instead look at it as a way to make yourself happy and productive. And pretty! People who are happy tend to be so pretty! I think so, at least...

I want to take a moment to sort of toot my own horn to advocate positive eating habits and the exploration of them. I went through a spell of bad years recently, and I took to food for comfort — primarily the "orange food group," which does not remotely feature oranges, but instead leans towards things with "cheez" and "goldfish" in their names. I gained a lot of weight, I felt crappy, I pretty much knew what I *should* be eating based on all the things I said above, but I couldn't quite bring myself to deal with it. Or I would totally eat broccoli, and then totally eat a lot of pizza.

My mom has this BMI/fat index thing on her fridge that I saw during a visit earlier this year (not tacky at all), and it turns out I was at the top of the "overweight" band. Whether or not that chart was even correct (and whether or not I even knew what the hell a BMI/fat index was), it was something of a wake-up call, because my physical characteristics were only several pounds short of being called "obese" on a chart with science on it. I pretty quickly resolved to finally try to find exercise that I liked and started to rehaul my eating habits in the ways that I knew could work for me. I stopped buying any sort of usual late-night snacks (for me, that's anything with crackers and cheese). I stopped buying instant-type foods that were loaded with sodium, which always make me feel even more hungry somehow. I started looking at the labels of anything I bought to make sure it wasn't loaded with fake ingredients, or ridiculously full of fat. And in a crazy move for a New York City-dweller, I decided I had to take a complete break from ordering takeout. The portion sizes of even the healthiest takeout items are just too big, and cooking at home ensured that I would know what ingredients were going into my food.

I now work to make sure I have large servings of vegetables for each meal — I even enjoy them for breakfast in some capacity. I have embraced the heck out of brown rice and quinoa because I figured out that they make me feel more full, but less tired than other grains or pasta. And protein! A nice serving of protein makes my head feel level. Lunch is my largest meal each day, but it can't have crazy heavy or salty foods in it because then I'll just feel sleepy and want to snack more in the afternoon. And what of snacks? Anytime I really am so hungering for a snack (because seriously, I still default to wanting the orange food group every time I have to spend an afternoon finessing a spreadsheet), I try to grab some almonds or some carrots — something crunchy that feels like work but doesn't leave me feeling dirty like chips or those cheesy crackers can (which I learned from that food diary exercise). Then I can tackle that horrible spreadsheet anew. I've been at last practicing what I preach for almost six months now, and I actually just realized that I have lost about 30 pounds. I'm no longer in the danger zone on mom's fridge chart, but more importantly, I feel really great. And I feel like it's also important to mention that I didn't quit drinking, though I have made some attempts at moderation on that front.

And how did you get into boxing??

BOXING! I had never really found any sort of exercise that I either liked or stuck with in the past: I once belonged to Equinox just so that I could use their fancy showers, I had a brief dalliance with Jazzercise a couple of years ago, and every attempt at yoga has made me incredibly angry. Everything always seemed so boring, and even though it technically made me feel pretty good afterward, I couldn't bring myself to stay with anything for long. I work very close to a well-known boxing gym in NYC, and I always thought it would be fun to try just once. It took me a whole year to brave going, and I only did so because of a serendipitous evening where I met a woman who regularly trains at that gym. She gave me the courage to go try it out — and I can't tell you how incredibly out of my comfort zone boxing is. Or rather, was! Somehow, I took to it.

I'm not amazing at it or anything, and I regularly get good-naturedly teased at the gym, but I really love it. I feel strong, I feel energetic, and I actually only go twice a week (long sessions, always with trainers). It's not cheap, but it's something that I am now equating with my rent: it's expensive, but it's what I need in order to survive. I feel about exercise the way I feel about food: you have to take some time to figure out what the right thing for you is. It can honestly surprise you. And though I only go to training twice a week, I tend to try to move around more on the days off (more stairs, sit-ups at home, sometimes even a RUN... crazy stuff ...). Side note of something I enjoy about boxing: when I tell women that I box, they usually want to know all the details of how/when/why. When I tell men, they almost always respond, "Oh yeah? Hit me." I generally oblige.

One last thought about what I'm qualified to do as a nutrition counselor vs. being a dietician. I'm basically a nutrition enthusiast who likes to help people feel enthusiastic about and in control of their own health. Dieticians are experts in the field, and they have to meet strict guidelines in order to be qualified in their jobs (I'm sure they feel enthusiasm as well, but they also have a lot of special certifications and things). I just like learning stuff, and while I do have a certification (from the Institute of Integrative Nutrition) to do what I do, I am by no means an expert! I have spent many years exploring human diets and eating habits, but I also take a holistic approach in looking at a person's overall happiness — in personal life, career, and exercise — in order to help them live their best possible lives. (I wanted to figure out a play on words using "cheez"y here, but it's past my bedtime.)

Thank you, Sarah!

168 Comments / Post A Comment


I like this "Ask a Nutritionist" and hope it becomes a thing.

I'm fairly certain my body hates cheese, chocolate, and wine. I'd like a full body transplant, please.

fondue with cheddar

@heliotropegerbil8 My body hates everything. Please give me the number for your full body transplant surgeon, thanks.

I hope this becomes a thing, too.


so wonderful.@j

Bus Driver Stu Benedict

My orange diet consisted of orange juice, cheddar cheese, and carrots because I was lazy and that was the easiest thing to grab in the fridge.

When I finally noticed they were all the same color was when I decided I might need a little more variety.


@Bus Driver Stu Benedict White cheddar cheese. Boom, problem solved.


@Bus Driver Stu Benedict Oh, that's right, in the USA cheddar is orange. Oh, America.


For some reason I'm so excited that food can apparently make you feel myriad emotions, not just full or good or bad. "Fruit makes me feel nervous." That is great.


Doing exercise you like is SO important. For years I forced myself to be a runner. I ran every day and particpated in tons of races. The thing was, I hated it! I was always in pain and had to schedule everything around long runs. I only did it because I thought that's what you did to stay in shape. One day I just had it and decided I was going to just stick with what I liked...walking. I walk every other morning from a half hour to an hour and do strength training on the other days. I didn't gain weight like I thought I would and actually found myself less hungry because I wasn't burning so many calories. I'm so much happier now!

Oh, squiggles

Um, please don't use the food you eat as an excuse to be bitchy to people? I mean, if certain foods make you feel a certain way, then yeah that is helpful to know. But I don't think you can justify bad behavior with "well, I had a cupcake today". I think we are capable of more self control than that.


@Absurd Bird
Buuuut I feel like the point is, understand how different foods make you feel? And that should HELP the cause of not being bitchy when you eat poorly, not hurt it. It's like, I'm not using my PMS as an excuse to be a bitch, I just recognize that I might accidentally be a bitch if I am PMSing so it's better for me to check in with myself and be like HEY SELF REMEMBER WHY YOU FEEL LIKE THIS AND REIN IT IN.


@Absurd Bird Yeah, but it is helpful to be able to identify the source of your bitchiness. Like "oh, I'm cranky because I'm hungry, I should go eat something instead of snapping at people". So, if you know you're going to be in a meeting and teamwork is going to be vital, don't eat the cupcake that makes you bitchy.


@heyhaley Yep, that's I read it. I recently realized that caffeine triggers a cycle with me that went something like: wake up, be a bitch, drink caffeine, be pleasant. And I thought, this isn't fair to anyone around me. I couldn't seem to will myself not to feel cranky pre-caffeine, but what I could (and did) do was gradually cut out the caffeine altogether.


@heyhaley YES! Last night I was
a) hungry
b) PMSing
c) had eaten really badly all day

I got totally and irrationally mad at my boyfriend over national polling data (I mean, I think I'm right - given that we use an electoral college, why do people get all chicken little about national polls? They're pretty much meaningless, right? Now imagine that, buy fucking HYSTERICAL with lots of ad hominem attacks)

Nothing he said made me feel better. But then I stopped, turned to him on a tube platform (we had gone four stops the wrong way without noticing, so pitched was our anger) and said "I should probably eat something. And something healthy. And until then, can we not discuss the election?"

Thats the kind of momentary wisdom that knowing how food makes you feel makes you capable of.


@Blushingflwr This thing is a real thing! I had no idea food affected my emotions until I went as a musician on an extended train trip where I was accidentally stranded on the other side of the country for a month with an accordionist friend; she'd steer us into places and feed me spinach periodically because apparently "being down" also means "low iron" for me.


When I tell men, they almost always respond, "Oh yeah? Hit me."

Aw, men. I <3 crazy, primal pants.


@laurel: Hee, that was supposed to be your crazy, primal pants. Not just pants generally. Although...


@laurel What are primal pants, anyway? Are they made out of banana leaves?


@frigwiggin Mastodan skin!


@l'esprit de l'escalier: Fur turned inside!


I am imagining something high-waisted, wide-legged, patterned, and extremely fashionable but slightly insane that Jane would recommend in her Friday bargain bin posts. And we would all be like "oh okay Jane. I WISH."


@heyhaley Fur-inside JUMPSUIT!

Reginal T. Squirge

How does that exchange work? Is it, like, "Hit me in the face"? Or on the arm? Or in the stomach? That's how Houdini died, right?


@Reginal T. Squirge: I'm picturing palms up, facing forward? Or bicep, flexed, turned forward? No, no, you're right, it's finger pointed at face, chin jutting out. Or, hands on hips, stomach clenched.

Reginal T. Squirge

I don't understand why anyone would ever willingly ask someone to hit them.


@Reginal T. Squirge: Some people are desperate to connect and violence is one of our culture's primary idioms?


@laurel Speaking of violent idioms...

LAUNCELOT: No, no, sweet Concorde! Stay here! I will send help as soon as I have accomplished a daring and heroic rescue in my own particular... (sigh)
CONCORDE: Idiom, sir?


As someone who was in the midst of an "I feel bad in my body", insane nothing-but-veggies-and-water crash diet this week, I could not love this Q&A more! Perfect timing, great advice, welcome back to my life, moderate amounts of carbs. And a food diary! YAY!


Yay? You like food diaries? Please tell me how you accomplished this because clearly it would be the beginning of solving all my food problems, BUT I HATE IT.


@LizHo Yes to moderation! Sometimes you don't have to cut entire wide swaths of the food world out of your diet to feel better. Variety keeps things interesting as well as healthy.


@NeverOddOrEven I just really like making lists & writing things down & I'm a regular diary writer anyway, so a food diary seems in my bag. We'll see how long I stick to it, though! Maybe one of the apps to keep track of food & then a little reflection at the end of the day would work for you?


I'm going to try. It's funny because I'm a huge Type A list-maker, but I have trouble creating new habits and it always feels like a gigantic chore.


I had to stop reading and come down here to repeat "eating shouldn't be such a chore, you know?" SING IT.


@frigwiggin Also, it's been the case the last couple of months that I don't eat enough at work, because I don't generally buy salty or sweet snacks to keep in my cabinet, but then I'm too lazy/forgetful to have better-for-me stuff there either? Plus I don't eat a big enough breakfast. I'm trying to tweak that, though, because even with lunch (especially if it's a meatless lunch) I end up ravenous when I get home and it probably effects my productivity during the workday because I'm thinking about dinner instead.




@frigwiggin I seriously live in constant fear of messing up effect/affect. I have nightmares about it.


@frigwiggin - AGREED. Obviously we should all make sure we are eating a well-rounded diet that is not entirely candy, and eating enough to fuel our bodies and not much more/less, but it shouldn't be so stressful! I think the details are interesting and helpful but not something we all need to get hung up on.


So yesterday you all gave me great advice on integrating beans into my diet, and, being the needy person I am, I am asking for even further input. My doctor called up yesterday saying he would like me to follow the FODMAP diet for a few weeks, which means I have to avoid most of the things on this list. Like soft cheese! and chickpeas! and yogurt ! and BREAD CRACKERS COOKIES COUSCOUS AND PASTA.

Anybody who's done this? Any help?

Gracefully and Grandly

@terrific I haven't done this but it looks like you can eat....air?

Gracefully and Grandly

@terrific or to be more helpful coming up with things you can eat: oranges, grapefruits, sweet potatoes, quinoa, broccoli, brussel sprouts, and rice?


@Gracefully and Grandly Air and some beans! Luckily I have a bazillion great bean recipes from yesterday. But garlic is not allowed, which is blasphemy.


@terrific It looks like you'll have to cut out most dairy and fruit and beans. I hate to say this, because it's a wacky diet, but I suspect you could follow most of the Whole 30/sort-of Paleo diet witha few things taken out. Chowstalker and the Whole 30 website might have some links to recipes you can try out. Breakfast might be the biggest problem if you take out wheat. I like sauteed chard or zucchini with a fried egg overtop, and it looks like you can still eat non-flavoured oatmeal with brown sugar and butter for breakfast or snacks.


@terrific --I did the FODMAPs diet earlier this year for a while--maybe a month or two, can't quite remember. It was hard, because I was vegan to begin with, so it was difficult to get protein, which is something I normally crave. (Try hemp hearts if that's a problem for you, too.) I never really felt like I totally figured out what my triggers were, but it did make me aware of how I was feeling after eating. Since then I've cut way back on wheat, beans, and certain fruits. Apples, as many people in the prior thread have found, are a problem for me. Can't remember what the troublesome component of apples is, but it's on your FODMAPS chart. I don't like a ton of garlic, and so I avoid it now, and that's helped, too.

I know everyone has some degree of problem digesting beans, but my body is way over-responsive. I don't have as much IBS as before. Usually now it's only triggered by stress, which it was before, too, but now only in more extreme circumstances, and I don't get that response to food alone very much anymore.

So, I don't think following the FODMAPs diet was totally enlightening, but it was somewhat. Oh, also pay attention to the effect that combining foods has. This FODMAPS blogger I was following for a while tipped me to that; she had a problem combining beans with wheat, and I found that too be true for me, too (crackers and hummus used to be a huge part of my diet).


@MilesofMountains and others--It's important to realize that the FODMAPS diet is not a lifetime diet. It's an elimination diet that you use to diagnose what foods are a problem for you.


@terrific Did low-FODMAPS for 3 months. Ate lots of roasted vegetables and meat, sort of got paleo about it? Onions are still hard on my stomach. It's hard to eat out or at friend's for dinner though - garlic and onion are in everythinnngg.


I was told to fodmap and it felt like a mean trick. I think if you have a time limit it makes it easier. Youre essentially trying to calm your system down by not antagonizing it for a month or so with the foods that you dont realize your body doesnt like. But yeah arranging meals was hard. On the plus side, gin is ok!


@teaandcakeordeath And I plan to drink all the gin and all of the tonic. Oh shit, is tonic allowed?! What do I add to my gin!?


@terrific Room-temperature tap water.


@terrific You can make gimlets! Like Betty Draper!

up cubed

@terrific I would like to learn more about this, my previous exposure was this: http://scdlifestyle.com/2012/09/dr-siebecker-explains-the-art-and-science-of-the-fodmap-diet-podcast-45/

Oh- and the beans thing (separate from FODMAP thing), I've heard that sprouted beans tend to easier to digest than regular dried ones.


More gin! I think all of the tonic should be fine. Some people react weirdly to tonic but my body just thinks it's pretentious water and is ok with it (or maybe im drinking cheap tonic? that works, drink that.) Theres probably some fancy cocktail bar with bizarre mixes like elderflower or cucumber or something.

And when youre feeling braver you can juice. Apples! Cranberries! But try not to have stuff too sugary. Or fizzy. Fizzy is evil.

And if youre happy sounding like a bit of an old lady, vodka lime and soda. And Bloody Marys.

Wow I have more thoughts on this than I thought. Ive been doing a lot of gin based research. Its fun to get creative! Just pour stuff in your gin and see what you like is my sage wordly advice.


@terrific It looks like you can eat quinoa, which is really good for you and high in protein and easy to make. Put some spices and veggies in it, or eat it like oatmeal. (This is my second quinoa post in two days.)


@teaandcakeordeath Is vodka, lime and soda an old lady drink? I drink that allllll the time.


Ha in my town it is, but those ladies are smart as vodka, lime and tonics are delicious. Cheers!



hahahaha, ja.


They cancel each other out.

Trust me I'm a scientist.


Yoga rage! I know that feeling.


@nowwhat: I do a lot of yoga but yeah, I recognize that feeling.


@nowwhat Word. I can't do more then 15 minutes of yoga before I regret my decision to give it another shot.


Aww man, but the junk food, she is so delicious! I know in my head that eating orange carrots are better for me than eating orange cheez-its, but carrots have not been science-engineered to be super tasty.


@BornSecular I was polishing off a bag of cheez-its as I read this, despite the two apples sitting on my desk. They're not even Red Delicious, so I would actually enjoy eating them. Meh.


@BornSecular - I eat carrots all the time BUT I firmly believe that they must have something on them to bribe me into eating them. Like hummus, or ranch, or peanut butter. They're honestly kind of hard to choke down otherwise.


So I love this feature, but as someone who drops really easily into obsessive disordered eating, how do I monitor my food consumption like this? I was never, even as a teen, in a full-blown "eating disorder" territory, but I've found that the best way (for me!) to feel MENTALLY okay with my diet is to just...not care? I try to eat healthfully & am pretty good at being able to tell when I'm full, but being mindful in the way that is suggested here seems like it would tip me into insanity.

Judith Slutler

@fabel I'm in the same boat, I don't think I could ever keep a food diary again.

Cat named Virtute

@fabel In that case, I think that falls under of the purview of "you do you!" and just keep going with what you're doing, since it's going to yield better results than changing. And if you do notice specific problems that might be diet-related along the road, maybe work with a dietician or nutritionist who can help you avoid obsessive food thinking traps?


@fabel Logged in to say, ME TOO. I can never ever ever start keeping track of anything, calories, quantities, etc. I have been in the full-blown disordered territory, and it's not a place I ever want to return to. I think for us, we should continue to not care, and if we somehow happen to discover that, say, cupcakes make us bitchy, we should trade them for cheesecake, etc. Keeping track is great for people who don't have this proclivity.


@fabel I think that's part of figuring out what works for your body. Tracking food consumption doesn't work for your body, so don't do it.

Petit Prince

@fabel I have a very long history of complex and disordered eating and, after huge initial resistance, I took up food diarying and found it oddly great. Once I admitted that I'm already obsessed continuously with what I'm eating, the tracking of it actually gave me a "place" to hold that obsessiveness and a time to do it. I do have to work at not going overboard, but I have to do that anyway, so it actually can work and can reveal things that you pretend to yourself you aren't doing (like living off one-third of a chocolate chip cookie and zero calorie Red Bull all day before drinking too much and then collapsing face-first into a cheeseburger).


@Cat named Virtute TRUTH. I tried the food diary thing for a while. It made me feel obsessive, wacked out, and anxious about every bite I put into my mouth, which would then lead to feeling bad if I ate anything that wasn't extremely good ("good") for me. I'm sure it works for lots of people, but for me it actually wound up making me feel worse about myself than when I wasn't really paying attention.


Maybe doing just the latter half wouldn't be triggering - just keep track of how you feel after eating instead of nit-picking what it was you ate?


This reminds me of that post from Nicole Cliffe in which she mentioned keeping herself a little thinner than she feels is "normal" or "set point" so that she doesn't have to worry about her body image or how she looks. Because I totally do that too. I sort of see that this way. Like, consciously decide to worry about it, so that you don't have to worry about it. Does this make any sense whatsoever?


I think weight loss food diaries end up being almost judgemental but reaction food diaries are more like reminders to help you link up what you ate with how you feel. But if you think you'll get obsessed then dont bother! No really - dont bother!


@fabel Have you ever heard of French Women Don't Get Fat? It is just, the brilliant food book for people who think dieting is ridiculous. I'm not going to lie, I have a huge snobbery complex about special diets. I think I'm too good for them. That book is definitely for people like us who might want to lose weight but have no intentions of actually dieting.


@Ellie oh, gosh, that is such a terrifying thought. seriously just thinking about intentionally fighting my body to stay thinner makes me start to shake. that's just me, but it seems like a lot of other people who can't keep track may fall into the same boat.

@fabel I'm the same sort of person - SO GLAD to know that there are more of us. Food diary, knowing how many calories I'm eating, measuring portions, etc... I basically go from zero to crazybrain malnourished within a few days. DEFINITELY don't bother if you think it's going to trigger problems. For me, the portions are a bigger issue than the foods themselves. If you think you can, make just write down a list of ingredients (and whether they're cooked or raw, maybe) and ignore how much you ate. But if that sounds dangerous, don't do it. and don't feel bad about it - I think it's pretty much impossible to be in touch with your body when you're fighting off obsessiveness.

What did get me really in touch with myself was being vegan for a few years (this was pre-disordered phase). Doing something that made it easy to miss out on certain foods (protein, iron, etc) made me really cognizant of when my body was telling me it was missing something. It's something that once you start feeling the pull with one or two things, you start feeling it more to the point where now I basically just crave random healthy foods all the time. So maybe if you can't track, do something like what Sarah was talking about in the post. Try a bunch of different not too faddy but somewhat extreme diets for a couple weeks each. Go vegetarian for awhile. Cut out grains for short period. Increase fiber. Decrease fiber. (some of these things can be even be things you think of as UNHEALTHY. it's OK. that's the point of experimenting. I've since learned that there are super healthy foods that only agree with me in small doses.) just think of it as an experiment in figuring out what feels good. Even if some of these diets are a little bit nutty, just finding out once or twice what your body feels like when it really needs protein or fat or vegetables is the first step to being able to listen.


@fabel So I'm another person with a history of disordered eating who is triggered in a huge way by keeping food diaries. I do try to practice mindfulness and awareness about how different foods make me feel. But I don't keep diaries of what I ate and how I felt, or think about it in any kind of structured way. I just try to informally check in with myself every so often about how I feel physically and mentally. I have a general sense of what I ate, so I can notice general patterns and make some connections by thinking "Have I ever felt like this before? When was that?" For example, I tend to feel wired and slightly nauseous after I eat something with lots of sugar and fat, like cake. I struggle getting to sleep if I drink anything caffeinated after noon. If I don't eat something every four hours, then I get super-irritable and can't think straight.

It is not very scientific, because I'm doing it all by memory and intuition. I'm actually a scientist IRL, so this bugs me. But I've realized that I can't collect data about my own eating without harming myself. If I could have someone follow me around unobtrusively, do all the diarying and analysis without my involvement, and just present me the results ("The data show you feel better when you eat more protein!"), then that would be awesome. But that's not possible. So I just go for the general mindfulness. And I can still recognize major patterns without keeping detailed diaries.

I smell burnt toast

@Ellie Whoa. I must have missed that post. That is a very striking concept. The idea of this being a thing that people intend with regards to eating is so antithetical to everything I have ever thought in my life about my looks and weight and food that I don't know how to compute this.


@I smell burnt toast Really? I think it makes a lot of sense. I do feel like I eat however I "want" and I never feel deprived or sad about my dietary choices, but what I "want" (at least at this point in my life - I'm 25 and single with no kids) is to look thin and hot. I'm ok with liking how I look for shallow reasons rather than, like, "accepting" my body. I'd rather just like the way I look than actually work on my body image or self esteem or whatever. I also am not totally sure that I really would weigh more if I "ate whatever I wanted" - I'm thin-ish but I'm not, like, skinny. I know this is all pretty insensitive sounding (I don't judge other people like this, just myself!). FWIW I used to have an eating disorder and for a long time I thought I was totally, 100%, without a doubt cured and now I realize I am actually kind of restrict-y. But it doesn't negatively impact my life, so I'm ok with it.


@Ellie I think the reason this seems so "does not compute" for me is because for me liking how I look is 100% mental. The least happy I was with my body was when I was at my thinnest (which is actually BARELY smaller than I am now... in fact maybe the same size but with less muscle). But when I felt like I could control my body by eating less, I hated my body. I needed less food, less me. I actually like how I look a lot more now that I follow internal clues rather than attempt to eat less and be below a certain weight or size.

For me - they're two separate things entirely. I can restrict/track (the two cannot be unlinked for me) what I eat OR I can be happy in my own skin and like my body/the way I look and live a life beyond my appearance. There's a switch that goes off once I start restricting/keeping track that shuts everything else down, and I think other people are the same maybe.

I smell burnt toast

@Ellie Actually, when you put it like that it is kind of similar to my own thoughts about food consumption. What I want is to eat cookies for every meal but I also want to feel good the way that eating wholesome food makes me feel. I guess what I seized upon was this idea of keeping oneself slightly below what feels like a normal weight, and consuming food with this intention.


I don't know much, but I know that my body is ENRAGED by cheese and the horse it rode in on.


I like the idea of "eating what works for your body" and think this a good point to make. I am really up on and super "into" health food, what's healthy, what you should eat, blah blah blah. However, I have IBS and can't eat raw vegetables, or most high fiber things, without feeling gross. So my diet consists almost exclusively of dry cereal, crackers, soup, frozen peas, other cooked vegetables, etc. I probably get most of my caloric intake from dry Cheerios. I worry about getting enough vegetables (esp. because I am incredibly lazy about cooking) but this is the way I like to eat that makes me feel good. I grew up eating salad, lots of vegetables, stir fry, etc. Sometimes when I stay at home my mom makes me salad to take for lunch, which I will eat for variety and taste, but which sort of ruins my day to eat in the middle of the day. I do make myself salad a decent amount in the summer but I *have* to just eat it right before bed and not do anything else after because it requires so much effort to digest it and then I don't feel "light" and energetic. So in the meantime I'll continue to subsist on easy to digest carbs, I guess.


@Ellie What about vegetable juices? My roommate goes on these "I'm going to be super healthy and just juice veggies for all my meals" kicks from time to time which I think are nuts because juicing (at least with her juicer) takes all the pulp and fiber out of the veg. I feel like for most folks, the fiber is important to balance out the natural sugar that's in a lot of produce, but for you maybe that'd be a good thing? I dunno...maybe worth looking into if you want to get some raw vegetables into your diet without screwing up your gut.


@Jinxie Yes! I actually own a juicer! I bought it recently with the intent of going on a juice fast (to lose vanity weight rapidly. I did it for like two or three days during which I got soooo drunk and decided it's a little incompatible with my drinking style). My brother did a 60 day juice fast and really loved it. He lost 38 lbs and then gained all the weight back (he didn't particularly need to lose weight, he's 6'2" and vegan and in good shape), which isn't a great thing to do I guess, but he really enjoyed it for the feelings of mental clarity and general wellness. But yeah, this is a good reminder to adopt "juicing" on a more regular-part-of-my-diet type way. Your point about getting vegetables/nutrients w/o the fiber is exactly my same feeling about it.


@Ellie Have you tried picking up bags of frozen veggies at the store and cooking with them?

I know that sounds a little obvious, but I hadn't ever done so until I saw a friend do it about a year ago. Now I keep 3 - 4 bags of frozen vegetable mixes in my freezer, and when I want a quick meal, I sautee them with olive oil, lime juice, garlic, and soy sauce for 5 - 10 minutes (depends on whether or not I thawed them first). If I want to get fancy, I also pop an egg in there or put a fillet of fish on top. Anyway, the point is, you get a bunch of cooked vegetables in relatively little time, and the best part is that you don't have to chop them (I HATE chopping veggies). The other best part is that you can buy the store-brand frozen veggie mixes for super cheap, and they are just as tasty.


@wee_ramekin Yes- I mostly eat frozen peas. I'm obsessed with frozen peas. I should branch out though. It IS a really good idea. My problem is that I am SO LAZY that I would rather eat dry Cheerios for dinner than even microwave frozen vegetables. I have to work on this!


I loveee the idea of a food diary to track how different foods make you feel/what works for you but in googling "how to keep a food diary" just now everything I got was all "weight loss!" "shed pounds!!" etc. Anyone have suggestions for good food diary keeping methods (what exactly do you record? and how often? etc)? Or websites you like with useful info?

Does Axl have a jack?

@waitykaitie Yes! I just went googling, and I can't find an online food diary that isn't specifically for dieting. If anyone knows of one that exists, that would be awesome.


@waitykaitie This link isn't terrible. I would add in also, time of day, whether or not I enjoyed what I ate (I had a friend who grew up drinking cranberry juice, and then in college learned she didn't like it when she did a mindfulness exercise for a class) and how I felt both immediately and an hour later. Maybe also track things like where you are in your hormonal cycle and any digestion-related results from what you're eating.


@Does Axl have a jack? You can use the diet-y ones for non-diet-y purposes, if you can stand the weight-loss cheerleading. I use the MyFitnessPal website for its nutrition facts database, especially for store-bought or restaurant meals. (Queso from Moe's Southwest Grill, I'm looking at you.) I don't keep a food diary right now, just a running tally of protein consumed. But when I do diarize, it's in a Google spreadsheet.

Does Axl have a jack?

@Does Axl have a jack? Ok, I just had an enormous moment of duh...if I just want to record what I'm eating and how it makes me feel rather than calories, I can use a regular online diary, not a food diary.

Cat named Virtute

Okay, but Hairpin, the real question is what am I going to make my family for dinner tonight? (bonus if I don't have to go to the grocery store because it is raaaaaaining and I don't have rainboots and also I would have to put real clothes on).


@Cat named Virtute This is super yum. And nutritious. I suggest the polenta fries (linked within) as a side.


@Cat named Virtute What do you have in your friiiidge? My pick for a rainy fall day would be this soup, but perhaps real people don't always keep winter squash and coconut milk around?

Cat named Virtute

@VolcanoMouse Oh man, we have carrots and parsnips and a red pepper and one egg and a giant sweet potato and various canned tomato products and chickpeas and kidney beans and pureed pumpkin and peanut butter and half a loaf of bread and cheese (asiago and cheddar) and rice and probably some pasta somewhere and milk and a full complement of spices and and possibly half a bag of red lentils and miraculously a can of coconut milk so maybe I'll just make curry.

@cuminafterall ooh, that DOES look yum. This house needs more beans and lentils.

@Cat named Virtute I had all of that in the house last night and it was awesome...

Wash and peel the sweet potato and parsnips. Cut into chunks, toss with olive oil/salt/pepper/herbs, throw in oven for 25 min at 350 and then turn the heat up to 450 for 5 more minutes. If you have garlic and onion, those are good, too.

Throw some grated asiago on top of that mixture.

OR pumpkin PB "pancakes"

Mix pumpkin, peanut butter, and egg in a bowl with some cinnamon and nutmeg and vanilla extract until it's the consistency of thick pancake batter. Cook like pancakes. I tend to use 1/2 cup pumpkin, 1/4 cup PB, an egg (plus eggwhites but whatever), and a lot of vanilla extract.

OR sweet potato curry.


Serving sizes! For a long time, I was always all "ugh I feel horrrribllllee" after dinner. Turns out I was always eating at least two servings of grains-- a full cup (instead of 1/2 cup) of rice or quinoa, or a bowl (instead of 2 oz) of pasta. When I started taking more of the other stuff instead, I started not curling up in a ball every evening.

Except pasta. I will absolutely eat a bowl of cacio e pepe, knowing full well that I will feel horrible after. Some things are worth it.

Snow Jelly

My body hates brown rice, but is totally cool with jasmine rice. Is that weird and/or healthy?

hahahaha, ja.

@Snow Jelly: The smell of jasmine rice cooking is the best smell in the world.

I'm with you on preferring white rice over brown. I just let myself eat white rice, but not too much, and make sure I get enough fiber in the rest of my diet. I know brown rice is better for you etc. etc. but I just cannot imagine eating brown rice regularly.

hahahaha, ja.

@hahahaha, ja.: On a related note, I can't make peace with whole wheat flour. I like my bread products to be white white white. Yo is this racist???


I completely love and agree with this, but a cautionary tale: I felt sick and gross after certain meals for a few years. I couldn't afford a dietitian, but I tried my own homespun diet-changing, and slowly started to weed out unhealthy, high fat foods. Then, I realized that even other "healthy" foods were making me sick. THEN, I sucked it up and went to a doctor, then a surgeon, and then found out my gallbladder (which is responsible for breaking down fats both bad and healthy for you) was basically completely non-functioning and I had to have it out quickly after. Moral of the story, sometimes if multiple foods are just not working for you on a consistent basis, there may be something more internal happen. Go to the doctor!


@thelibrarianne When my gallbladder was all FUBAR, I never even connected it with food. I would have attacks in the middle of the night, so it never occurred to me that it would be food related! It wasn't until I had an attack so bad I had to go to the ER, got diagnosed, and then spent the next week until I could have surgery vomiting up every single thing I ate that the food issue even seemed relevant.
(Also, having a gallbladder that is FUBAR is a really efficient way to lose a lot of weight in a very short period of time, but it hurts like a MOTHERFUCKER.)


This should be a recurring thing.


I'm exhausted even thinking about thinking about food this much. no thanks.


@christonacracker So you *dont* want to tell us all how to prepare Christ on crackers?


@l'esprit de l'escalier just a little smear on some ak-mak.


I'd love a recurring nutritionist type feature, but could it be from an RD, rather than someone with a meaningless certificate from a scam online program? I know I sound bitchy and Sarah seems quite nice and normal, but the Institute for Integrative Nutrition is a total crock.

Cat named Virtute

@IvyLoo I agree, with nods to the comments about BMI being a load of crock and the suggestion of an interview with The Fat Nutritionist below.

@IvyLoo Seriously, this.

straw hat

@IvyLoo Ahh that was also my first reaction, as an over-skeptic who studied science. But I think she did a good job and that her advice is totally reasonable.
She mostly gave general advice and talked about her personal experience, though. I do think a RD would be in a better position to answer questions about specific diets/problems.
Which isn't to say RDs hold the absolute truth either (see : BMI use).


So, I know this was not the point of this interview, but I am surprised no one else has mentioned this yet: BMI is a terrible way to assess a person's health. I am glad you were able to use it as a wake-up call, but many people exercise and eat well and are still on the "overweight"/"obese" end of the BMI spectrum. It just does not take enough factors into account.


@highfivesforall --I just automatically take that fact into account when I hear someone talk about BMI. That part of whatever they're saying just washes over me. :)

@highfivesforall The minute the letters "BMI" are uttered about an individual, my brain registers this as "this person lacks proper qualifications to discuss weight and health."

I like the idea of this post but seriously, Hairpin?


@highfivesforall YES, exactly. The rest of this advice was so sensible that it just felt really jarring. I mean, I get that sometimes people have wake up calls to eat more than artificially flavored cheese product and sometimes those are not body-positive wake up calls, but I feel like BMI and intuitive, listening to body ways eating are kind of contradictory.

@entangled I'm so touchy about this stuff. Because most people are horrified when they see my height/weight together, and are then shocked when they see me and my body. I'm a curvy little fucker, but I don't look obese.


@S. Elizabeth oh, I totally get that (and, yeah, I've written thousands upon thousands of words on the bullshittiness of BMI in my life). I think the article would have been a lot better if she left that part out and focused on the "hey, cupcakes make me feel shitty, so I mostly avoid them but not always because they're delicious" stuff.

@entangled I find it sort of absurd that she's a nutritionist and didn't learn to question the BMI. Um, hello, common sense and education and a basic google search? Right?


@S. Elizabeth I assumed she saw the chart before she decided to become a nutritionist, but re-reading it, I think maybe sometimes I am a little too generous. Though I don't doubt that there are much, much worse nutritionists. Isn't it Willett, the Harvard nutrition head, who says that we should all strive to be just above underweight on the BMI scale?


@entangled I had a nurse at the student health center tell me that, too. She was worried that although I was in the "healthy" BMI zone if I gained weight I wouldn't be. I couldn't figure out what the logic was, there.

tea sonata

@highfivesforall I was informed that BMI was invented by Insurance Companies. Terrifying.

@tea sonata http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Body_mass_index

You heard wrong.


@tea sonata Actually it was invented by the mathematician Quetelet in the mid 1800's, the same guy who essentially invented the modern field of sociology. So, not a bad dude, but not a doctor or health professional in any way.


I will never understand how 'obsessively tracking every molecule of food that enters your body and how it makes you feel' equals 'empowering' and not 'OCD'. Never.


@JanieS It doesn't sound healthy. And it certainly didn't feel healthy when I tried it.


@JanieS --it could be done without tracking portions, just doing it by ingredients. E.g.: "Lunch: tortilla chips, tomatoes, oil, vinegar, cumin, tofu," or whatever (not that that's a dish). That way you see specifically what foods you ate so you can track your reactions without the psychological baggage of "how much" and possibly "too much," etc.

edit: not sure if that's the difficulty for you, but it would be for a lot of people.


@JanieS This is one of those cases where different strokes work for different folks. For me, it makes me stop and slow down and think about what I'm eating and why. And if you're constantly not feeling well and you can't figure out why, assessing your diet can be a useful tool to help you feel better.
For example (and this is not a food thing): if I don't take my blood pressure medication on time, I get a migraine about 30 hours later. If it were a food trigger, being able to look at the past day's food intake and say "oh, every time I eat X I feel Y" would be helpful. But if it makes you feel obsessive and unhappy, then it is obviously not something you should do.


@JanieS OK this is where I throw in my pitch for Enneagram. Several friends and I have taken it over the last year or so and it's incredibly enlightening WRT why some things are empowering to some people and absolute torture for others. I'm a 4, so the idea of obsessively tracking all my food makes me want to, like, drop out of life. But for my friend Jack, the idea of obsessively tracking all the things in the world makes him bloom.


@par_parenthese YEAH ENNEAGRAM. I'm a 5, so obsessively tracking things is TOTALLY up my alley. I'm also pretty obsessed with MBTI.


@JanieS I will just pipe in here a bit and say that I work in healthcare and when I'm assessing patients whose lifestyle and overall wellbeing would be greatly improved by a change in diet, I ask them to tell me what they ate in the last 24 hours so we can talk about food choices and how to modify them. Very few people can do it accurately, by their own admission. So then I give them a food journal and they come back later and we go over it, and they're really surprised by the difference in what they thought they were eating vs what they were actually eating. It really can be a helpful tool for some folks. And yeah, I never really ask for a caloric breakdown or anything fussy like that. Just "Breakfast: cornflakes, skim milk, strawberries." Et cetera.


Okay, Hairpin, you convinced me. Lunch will be something protein-y that will not make me a murderous bitch instead of the pasta I was planning on having. *sigh*


Ahh, this series is frustrating me because I normally am all about brown rice, quinoa, and diverse veggies but I'm out of the country for the year in a place where nary a whole grain is to be found and vegetables are limited to what's in season/locally grown (which is obviously a good thing, environmentally, but oh I miss avocados and kale and veggies that aren't tomatoes and cucumbers...). And eating out means meat, meat, and more meat...not that there aren't plenty of delicious things here, but I've definitely been feeling an energy drain and crankiness associated with my new diet.


@bleepbloopblopbloop I'm dying to know what country this is if you don't mind revealing that.


@bleepbloopblopbloop are you in the post-soviet world? May I recommend grechka? mmm.


Can we have an interview with The Fat Nutritionist? She's got a lot of really smart things to say about intuitive eating and also about the way we load food down with moral value and the way that intersects with other social values. (which is not to denigrate the interviewee here, I just think it would be cool to read an interview with Michelle)

Cat named Virtute

@Blushingflwr Yes please!


@Blushingflwr Yes! thirded

Judith Slutler

@Blushingflwr I love her! That would be awesome (though I too am not dissing Sarah, awesome interviews so far!)

evil melis

"I fear the worst, Jeeves," I said. "Last night at dinner Miss Pyke threw out the remark that the carrot was the best of all vegetables, having an astonishing effect on the blood and beautifying the complexion. Now, I am all for anything that bucks up the Wooster blood. Also, I would like to give the natives a treat by letting them take a look at my rosy, glowing cheeks. But noat the expense of lunching on raw carrots."

Tragically Ludicrous

@evil melis I'm allergic to raw carrots. They are not a very good snack unless I want to go around feeling like I need to claw my throat out.

tea sonata

@evil melis My mother fed me too much mushy carrot as a child, and my skin went orange, to the point other mothers would point and question.
Simple solution - stop feeding me mushy carrots. Problem solved.
As an adult, I am not so keen on carrots, particularly mushy cooked ones.


I plan on waiting for that scanner.
Also I had fries two days in a row, but the second time they were far superior to the first, so that jusitifies it, right?

hahahaha, ja.

@Megano!: Also, I remember we decided in the previous post that potatoes are approximately vegetables due to the whole growing-in-the-ground thing, so overall you're in the clear.


Yesterday, someone asked for advice about eating cheaply, healthfully, and easily, and the responses were mostly beans!!!! and also lentils!!!!

I recognize these things to be true and helpful for many people, but I absolutely, totally LOATHE beans, and very heartily dislike lentils. So, any other suggestions?


@Inconceivable! Quinoa, sweet potatoes, and squash lend themselves to tons of different configurations. I'm going a little overboard with the squash these days but it's 50 cents a pound!



Quinoa! It really is as good as everyone says it is.

Packages of frozen vegetables from the frozen section! These are very very very cheap, and quite easy to prepare. Just take one out of the freezer when you get home from work, and by the time you've shucked your bra and shoes, quickly checked the 'Pin, and snuggled your dog, they're thawed and ready to cook. I cook them with olive oil, lime juice, garlic, and soy sauce, and I like to add an egg or fillet of white fish atop that mixture too. Makes a filling, healthy dinner for pretty cheap.

Bulk tilapia! I don't know if you can get this everywhere, but at the HEB (Texas chain grocery store) near me, they sell bags of 10 or so tilapia fillets for ~$7.

Eggs! I find that adding an egg to many dishes I make fills me up.


@wee_ramekin @Amphora

Thanks! I confess to being intimidated by quinoa, but I will give it a shot. I'm a fan of squash and tilapia, though.



Do not be intimidated by quinoa! It is easy to feel intimidated, especially if your mental image of a quinoa-eater is some gorgeous, raw-food hippie (er...just me?), but seriously, quinoa is SO easy to make. Easier than rice, even. You really just have to rinse it*, put it in a pot and boil it for ~15 minutes. When you're finished, you can use quinoa as a base for a saucy dish, or vegetables, or you can toss it into any other thing you're eating to add protein and bulk. Quinoa in your salad? Check. Quinoa on your roast chicken? Checkity-check. Quinoa in your ice cream? Why the (c)heck not?!

*Unrinsed quinoa has some sort of chemical that can cause stomach aches for some people.


@Inconceivable! Quinoa's nice because it cooks as fast as couscous - I just use it instead of rice, usually.


@wee_ramekin The quinoa I buy even claims to be pre-rinsed! Not sure how accurate it is, but it doesn't hurt my stomach and a huge bag is only 12 bucks at costco.


@Amphora I use it instead of everything! Tonight I had quinoa and meatballs for dinner instead of spaghetti and meatballs.


@wee_ramekin Quinoa! I like to put a tiny bit of butter and maple syrup on it and have it at breakfast.


Does anyone have tips on getting more iron in your diet when you are a person who doesn't really like most foods that are rich in iron? I found out recently that I am pretty anemic, and I know that changing my diet would be a huge step in not feeling shitty and tired all the time, but most lists of food for anemics are like... lists of foods I don't like.


@sophi --For one thing, you can cook your food in a cast-iron pan. Also, if you like blackstrap molasses, there's that. And if there are any iron-rich foods you like, try having something with citrus in it at the same meal to help you absorb the iron, and, conversely, stay away from dairy in the same meal, which inhibits that. In conclusion, spinach has an undeserved reputation for being iron-rich; you can't actually use a whole lot of the iron that's in it because of the oxalic acid that's also in it. Or something like that.


@sophi another vote for cast iron pans!


@sophi My vote is for this liquid iron supplement called Floradix. Completely vegetarian, not great-tasting but you take a couple tablespoons and wash it down with some OJ and you're good to go. My hematocrit basically went up 50% in two weeks.

YMMV but I found the cast iron pan thing to not be effective at all, nor was just eating more meat. Not really sure why.

fruiting body

@sophi I don't know if your doctor went over the probable causes of your anemia (there are lots of types) but sometimes it can be caused by a deficiency of B vitamins, not just iron. So make sure you are also taking a multivitamin every day, and other B-vitamin-rich foods like eggs (with yolks), or nutritional yeast or marmite if those float your boat.


This seems like a good place to share my COOL SNACK TIP! I don't have much of a sweet tooth, so my version of 'eat the whole pint of ice cream' is to eat an entire jar of salsa in one sitting. Salsa: not that bad for you! Probably a serving of vegetables, right? It's the half of a giant bag of tortilla chips that is where the unhealthy problems come in.

But a friend gave me a solution: RADISH SLICES. They are crunchy and just a little peppery and fiberful and actually fill you up faster than chips, so when I do this I can't even actually eat the whole jar of salsa! Delicious!


@Whitney@twitter This is genius!
But read your salsa labels. Some are really high in salt and sugar.


maybe the pinrariat can help me. I have to take a lot of medication, and one of the side effects is loss of appetite. It's been kind of trying, my appetite is pretty much non existent. I eat maybe 800 calories per day? I know that's really bad and not enough but I am just not hungry at all and my tum has gotten super sensitive. I'm also vegetarian. Suggestions?


@contrary Are you doing things to burn calories in order for you to speed up your metabolism and make you want to eat?
I might try exercising and drinking more water for a start, but I have no medical qualifications and this is a total guess, from one internet stranger to another. :-)


@contrary a friend of mine has this issue too. She drinks a lot of juice and smoothies and protein shakes and other stuff that doesn't need chewing, because she says it doesn't feel so much like eating. She also always eats breakfast, and sets timers and eats SOMETHING every three hours, even if she's not hungry. That kind of thing might help? You could also talk to your doctor about ideas, or see if you can get a referral to a nutritionist/dietician.


Yea, if easy calories are what you're going for I'd think Naked Juice or one of the cheaper knock-offs would be good. So long as sugar wont upset your stomach. They're very sugary, but there's none added.
BUT! Thry just released a "reduced calorie" version that's cut with coconut water and is perfect.

tea sonata

@NeverOddOrEven Sounds delicious. Is this available in the UK?
EDIT - google just said "Yes", but thanks for the heads up!


I have cut sodium and non-fruit/ veggie snacks out of my diet and started walking to school 15-20 mins each day and I feel awesome!

Paket Wisata Pulau Tidung

Wow such a long article, finally i found one. Because usually you just give a link and dont write a lot, but i already read it carefully and i get a lot of good information. Thanks for sharing.
travel & tour paket wisata pulau tidung murah terbaik

Post a Comment

You must be logged-in to post a comment.

Login To Your Account